by Maheesha Mudugamuwa-July 19, 2017, 10:53 pm
The Joint Opposition (JO) consisting of SLFP and UPFA dissidents loyal to former President Mahinda Rajapaksa broke into two factions yesterday after one of its main partners, the National Freedom Front (NFF) opted to pull out of the new constitution making process.
NFF leader Wimal Weerawansa has informed Speaker Karu Jayasuriya in writing that he and four other NFF MPs namely Weerakumara Dissanayake, Jayantha Samaraweera, Udayashantha Gunasekera and Niroshan Premaratne, would leave the Constituent Assembly (CA).
All NFF MPs, except Gunasekera, were present when party leader Weerawansa handed over the letter to the Speaker, according to sources.
The letter signed by all five NFF members said the party had decided to leave the CA for ten reasons.
Their letter reads: “We as representatives of the public accept the call by Mahanayakes of all three chapters that the present situation is not suitable for a new constitution or amending the constitution. The Mahanayakes conveyed that message to the government, all MPs and general public in a statement dated July 04.
In response to that call and other reasons we decided to leave the constitutional assembly. The government has not received a mandate to set up a constitutional assembly. The incumbent president in his electoral manifesto seeking power stated that he would only approve constitutional amendments which would not require referendums. Setting up a constitutional assembly to recommend constitutional reforms that need to be approved in a referendum is thus exceeding the mandate he received.
The 95 MPs of the UPFA too have not received any mandate for constitutional reforms.”
The five MPs have asked the Speaker to inform Parliament that they have left the CA. “As per the motion passed in Parliament for the setting up of the CA, it is mandatory that all MPs in parliament to become its members. When we leave the assembly, that condition is violated and the legitimacy of the CA is now in question. We hope the Speaker would inform parliament that the legality of the CA now in question with our exit,” said the letter copied to President Maithripala Sirisena, Chairman of the Steering Committee of the CA Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe and all media institutions.
Meanwhile, the Joint Opposition reiterated yesterday that it would continue to take part in the constitution making process. Questioned at a JO press conference, MP Bandula Gunawardena said the JO would remain in UNP-led constitutional making process.
Gunawardena said that the decision had been taken at a meeting chaired by former President Mahinda Rajapaksa.